EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to After, a novel by first-time author Anna Todd that has been the breakout hit of Wattpad, the online community of readers and writers where books are published a chapter at a time. Todd’s novel originated as a serialized three-part series that Toronto-based Wattpad says has accumulated more than 1 billion reads.
Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot will produce through their Offspring Entertainment banner. Their credits include the Step Up series to 17 Again, Bedtime Stories, Hairspray, Rock Of Ages and The Last Song. They are currently prepping Mean Moms at New Line.
Todd’s novel is separately booked to be published through the Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books, with the first installment going on sale October 21. Will it become a publishing phenomenon like Twilight or Fifty Shades Of Grey, the latter of which E.L. James first began writing as Twilight fan fiction? It is already a phenomenon in its own right and certainly more brand name recognition than a first-time author whose book is about to be published has any right to expect. That is thanks to Wattpad, which boasts 35 million users who dial in to read fiction, usually on mobile devices. Anyone can publish, and the stories are free and available in 50 languages. The latest development allows the author to actually get paid for all this patronage, something made possible in that those who contribute to the 7-year old site retain copyright ownership.
After follows the love story of Tessa and Harry, and its plot summary sounds reminiscent of Fifty Shades Of Grey, without all that S&M stuff. A happy, optimistic young girl falls in love with a guy with a dark side that is addictive, and their relationship is a rollercoaster ride. The discussion thread on After regularly trends on social platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, and readers are so devoted they create fan art, videos and music designed to extend the story experience. The same kinds of things happened on those other female-driven books that became movie franchises, so this UTA-brokered deal is potentially a big one.
Said Wattpad General Manager Candice Factor: “After has a massive built-in audience that was cultivated on Wattpad. This deal means millions of fans are one step closer to realizing their dream of seeing After brought to life on the big screen. “Wattpad is a top entertainment destination with thousands of new stories shared every day. We expect to see many more blockbusters and bestsellers emerge from the platform.”